Yoga Program Offers Instant Karma

By Gwen Moran for, April 7, 2012

Most yoga classes aren’t filled with gang members and convicted felons dropping F-bombs. But that’s a typical scenario in Ascend Program classes.

Founded by defense attorneys Toni Carbone and Christine Galves, the court-approved Sacramento, Calif.-based program teaches life skills–including nutrition, financial management, career counseling and, yes, yoga–to convicts. Judges may direct prisoners to the program to serve a minimum of 30 days of their sentences.

The program stemmed from Carbone’s own community service requirement. No, she didn’t do time: Torrance, Calif.-based YogaFit, the school from which Carbone received training as an instructor, requires students to donate eight hours of free instruction to those in need.

When YogaFit founder Beth Shaw instituted the community service requirement in 1997, she didn’t know it would inspire dozens of ongoing service-based yoga programs around the country. YogaFit is the largest yoga instructor training school in the world, and its graduates are working with prisoners, battered women, homeless populations and people in impoverished nations, largely inspired by their certification requirement.

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